The lively debate on the future of work revolves around the impact that digital technologies are having on the nature of work and the structure of labour markets, and around how that impact may interact with other factors such as globalisation or demographic change.
Does digital technology polarise or upgrade occupational structures? Are robots or Artificial Intelligence (AI) set to destroy jobs? Are digital labour platforms undermining labour rights or creating new economic opportunities? Do new jobs require new skills?
Currently, the debate is expanding to include the potential implications for employment of the green transition, and its interaction with technological change. These developments have deep implications for European employment and social policies, including the European Pillar of Social Rights.
The JRC conducts an ambitious research programme in this area, contributing to the debates about the future of work in Europe, providing scientific evidence and policy-oriented empirical analysis in several areas.
Areas of work
Occupational change describes how job structures are changing across occupations, sectors, and the wage distribution. The JRC monitors whether the occupational structures of EU countries and regions are upgrading, downgrading, or polarising.
Analysing jobs in terms of their tasks helps explain the impact of new technology at work and changing skill demand. The JRC-Eurofound Tasks Framework and EU Tasks Database provide detailed measures for all sectors and occupations in Europe.
Machines have long replaced human labour in some tasks, increasing productivity and transforming work. The JRC provides concepts, data, and analysis to understand automation in the digital age, and whether robots are destroying jobs.
The use of digital technology at work changes business models and work organisation. The JRC studies the implications of digital tools at work for employment and working conditions, including job quality, routine, autonomy, and work intensity.
Remote work increased in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many continue to regularly work from home. The JRC estimates who can telework in the EU, and the impact of COVID-19 confinement measures on work-life balance and working conditions.
Digital Labour Platforms match clients with workers in the “gig economy", who are managed through algorithms. The JRC estimates the number and conditions of platform workers in the EU with the COLLEEM and AMPWork surveys, informing EU regulation.
Algorithms are increasingly used to coordinate labour. This can transform business models, industrial relations, and affect job quality through work organisation. The JRC AMPWORK study monitors algorithmic management in the EU.
Online job advertisements can provide valuable information on labour market dynamics, like the changing demand in skills and new occupation profiles. The JRC connects this data to occupational task data, and analyse digital skill demand.
The use of outsourcing, whereby firms contract out service activities to external providers, is on the rise in European economies. The JRC researches the implications for European labour markets in terms of working conditions and wage inequality.
This wide-ranging research programme is conducted by a multidisciplinary team of researchers under the portfolio on Education, skills and jobs, which also covers Education and Training, Skills and Competences, and the JRC Centre of Advanced Studies on Social classes in the digital age (DIGCLASS).
Most of the studies in this area are first published in the The JRC Working papers on Labour, Education and Technology.
This research programme builds on an extensive cooperation network across the JRC and in international research organisations such as the International Labour Organization (ILO), the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound), Cedefop (the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training), the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).